What is it?
Recorded sound of any type used to transmit or to enhance information.
Why is it important?
We need all of our senses to understand the world. Audio provides an additional channel for learning that helps some users learn faster. It is also vital for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Why does a technical communicator need to know this?
You can tell a lot about a car from the sounds the engine makes. The auditory realm includes much vital information that helps us understand the world, including the world of technology.
As technical communicators use more multimedia, sound is becoming as important as text in delivering your message. Some people are visual learners, and others are auditory learners. Including audio, either as an independent element or accompanying images, helps auditory learners master technical products faster.
Sound is also key to helping blind and visually impaired consumers use products. The obvious example of screen readers comes to mind, but sound can also be used to trigger navigation cues to users who cannot see a largely graphical screen. If you combine auditory cues with touch screen technology, a visually impaired person can learn to easily navigate an application. Auditory cues might also be embedded in hardware to identify which part of a device the user is handling.
As new media for communicating technical information develop, the role of audio will evolve considerably. If we take one example, augmented reality, we are often in a hands-free situation where operating a mouse or keyboard or other manual device is inconvenient or even dangerous. Audio information keeps the user focused on the task at hand, without distracting from the essential. In a similar manner, speech recognition software can be used to control the display of information. Technology such as Apple’s Siri (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface) or Amazon Echo illustrate clearly the accuracy with which this can be done.